Interest in blockchain as an enterprise solution continues to rise, to the point where platform vendors and service providers are starting to fold the technology into their IT solutions.
But while blockchain has been shown to be useful in applications far beyond cryptocurrency, there is still a lot of uncertainty when it comes to integrating it into both legacy enterprise processes and the new functions surfacing in the IoT and other advanced architectures.
According to Juniper Research, nearly 40 percent of companies are eyeing blockchain in one capacity or another. That portion rises to 56 percent among organizations with 20,000 or more employees. Most are looking to apply it to settlements and payments processes, although interest also spans areas like contract management, supply chain tracking and identity verification. The top challenge so far seems to be integration, with larger firms in particular concerned about implementing the technology non-disruptively across both internal and customer/partner-facing processes.
At the moment, however, blockchain is only slowly making its way into hardware and service solutions. Leonovus claims to be the first to add blockchain to an enterprise-grade software-defined storage solution with the release of its latest version, 3.0. The system leverages blockchain to build stronger security by increasing layers of obfuscation, encryption, deconstruction and geographic distribution of data. As well, the technology boosts governance and compliance measures across hybrid, multi-cloud architectures, particularly those built on commodity infrastructure. In addition, the company has added blockchain to its WISE network in order to create a varied suite of products for targeted applications.
Among emerging service providers, blockchain is seen as a way to improve the productivity of key verticals like health care. Nashville’s Change Healthcare recently added the open-source HyperLedger Fabric platform to its Intelligent Healthcare Network, which it says will allow users to improve revenue collection, boost real-time analytics and create new services. Once the system is up and running by the end of the year, users will be able to access it without having to develop new code or upgrade to new interfaces or data formats. As an open system, HyperLedger should also allow users to integrate the health-related processes with other supporting providers, such as banks, equipment suppliers and insurance companies.
Major enterprise platform providers are also looking to incorporate blockchain, albeit cautiously. HPE recently teamed up with distributed database firm R3 to deploy its Corda platform into mission-critical IT systems, and the company is also said to be on the verge of formally joining the Enterprise Etherium Alliance to supports its customized version of the basic blockchain methodology. The goal is to provide greater trust in distributed, high-volume transactions without having to turn to proprietary ledger solutions. As Market Realist’s Adam Rogers notes, however, HPE is playing catchup with IBM, which has been exploring blockchain since at least 2015.
It’s important to note that while blockchain itself is highly resistant to tampering, this does not mean it is foolproof. Issues like identity theft and network security will remain as vital concerns to ensure that individual ledgers cannot be fooled into thinking transactions are legitimate when they are not.
But as long as the enterprise can maintain the veracity of the blocks that are added to the chain, it should be next to impossible for someone to go in and alter those transactions at a later date.
Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.